CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A graduation ceremony Sunday, May 1, at Mount Saint Joseph University didn't feature your typical grads. The men and women just finished a program called Leadership Scholars. It's designed to give parents, grandparents and other caregivers, the tools they need to prepare the young people in their lives for college. this morning a graduate of the Leadership Scholars program, Onjule Wooten and one of the people who make it happen, executive vice-president, Dr. Suzie White spoke about what the program hopes to accomplish.
Article courtesy of Mark Curnutte, Cincinnati Enquirer
Maria Zuniga has worked for 10 years in the kitchen of a sit-down chain restaurant.
She lives in a mobile home in a Sharonville trailer park.
She said she wants more for her son.
Two months ago, Zuniga enrolled in an eight-week course called Leadership Scholars. The research-based program works in more than 30 Greater Cincinnati urban schools. It educates parents – most of them the heads of low-income African-American and Latino households – in the areas of college readiness, social and emotional mindset and the importance of parental engagement in school. The ultimate goal is to increase the likelihood their children will attend college.
“I did not know anything about the university,” said Zuniga, 39, who did not finish high school in Mexico before emigrating 20 years ago. “Now I know almost everything. I know how much the SAT will cost. I learned college is not too expensive. I learned we can get money for it.”
Her son, Jonathan Lopez, 14, is in the eighth grade at Princeton Community Middle School. “She wants me to be a doctor or a lawyer,” he said.
She said, “I do not want him to work in a kitchen, like me.”
Zuniga will graduate Sunday, part of Leadership Scholars’ sixth class, joining more than 1,100 parents to complete the program since it started its Parent Academy courses in fall 2013.
Across the country, the college enrollment rate in 2013 for African-Americans who complete high school (57 percent) is lower than those for Hispanics (66 percent) and whites (67 percent), according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Education.
Income is a greater determinant. The college enrollment rate in 2013 for high-income students ages 18 to 24 who completed high school was 80 percent, but fell to 64 percent for middle-income students and 49 percent for low-income students.
In the past year, 65 percent of graduate parents were African-American, 30 percent were Hispanic and 5 percent white.
One of Leadership Scholars’ 10 staff members is Myrna Gomez, hired before the 2015-16 school year as Hispanic community outreach coordinator. The program employs a pool of some 40 instructors, and handful of whom are native Spanish speakers.
The previous school year, 2014-15, 80 percent of parent graduates were African-American, 20 percent white.
Melding current research, including doctoral work by Leadership Scholars’ Executive Vice President Suzie White at New York University, the program identified the biggest reason low-income students make the decision to go to college.
“It’s one adult relationship that says, ‘You are going to college,’ ” White said. “It’s not, ‘I think.’ It’s, ‘You are.’ ”
Who better, then, that a parent to deliver that message.
Sometimes, it’s a grandparent. Ronald Olverson Jr. will be another of the 200 Leadership Scholar graduates Sunday at Mount St. Joseph University. A 1985 Princeton High School graduate from Lincoln Heights, Olverson enrolled to better prepare his granddaughter, Amaiya Villada, just 3, for college.
“She knows she wants to be a doctor,’ Olverson, 48, said. “We said to her, ‘Well, then we are going to start getting your ready now.’ ”
She knows her alphabet and letters up to 30. She can hold a conservation with an adult. The little girl lives in the Dayton, Ohio, area with her parents but is with her grandparents three of four weekends a month. Olverson reads a children’s fairy tale book and a children’s Bible to her. She can recognize some words by sight. They work on flash cards. She is learning to play chess. Her request.
“She knows the different pieces,” Olverson said.
Parent Academy classes run one hour, 45 minutes a week. Leadership Scholars provides transportation to and from with taxis. Zuniga said her ride picks her up at her door. A meal and child care are available once parents reach the school. The class is free. Leadership Scholars has had annual budgets of between $670,000 and $800,000, depending on the number of parents enrolled.
“Over the years, educators and schools have treated wealthy parents with dignity and provided them with all the information they need,” said Pat White, Suzie White’s mother and Leadership Scholars’ executive director. She has 45 years of experience as a teacher, college counselor, and principal and head of school at Summit Country Day.
“We hear so much about the city’s high child poverty,” Pat White said. “This is one way to get at it.”
Each weekly class focuses on a topic area: college affordability and financial aid, understanding the importance of grade-point averages and the SAT and ACT standardized tests, building a child’s identity, how to maximize the parent-teacher conference, how to get involved in your child’s school, creating a learning environment in the home, the neuroscience of the brain and how to foster grit and persistence. The last piece – teaching high school students how to persevere – can be useful in college as a way to improve graduation rates for minority students.
Leadership Scholar parent participants have children in grades seven through 12. Survey results gathered after the fall 2015 semester showed increases in key metrics: 91 percent believed after the course that they could afford college for their child, 32 percent before the course; 88 percent said they understood the college admission, compared with 28 percent. And 87 percent said they encouraged their child to attend college, up from 23 percent.
Maria Zuniga said she now knows what questions to ask her son. She buys him books to read in the home, including the “Maze Runner” series by James Dashner.
“I don’t want him to waste time,” she said.
She knows better how to encourage him.
Jonathan runs hurdles on his track team. He had a bad race recently.
In one of her Leadership Scholars classes, Maria Zuniga learned who Michael Jordan is and how he was cut one year from his high school basketball team.
“I know who Michael Jordan is,” Jonathan said. “But she didn’t. Now she tells me all the time to remember Michael Jordan and how he never gave up.”
Is program for you?
call 513-861-5323 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congratulations to all of our Leadership Scholars Parent Academy graduates! Special thanks to Courtis Fuller and the WLWT-TV5 News team for featuring our program!! Click on the link to watch WLWT-TV news coverage on the Leadership Scholars Parent Academy Graduation: http://www.wlwt.com/news/300-graduate-from-cincinnatis-leadership-scholars-parent-academy/36607280
The Leadership Scholars community invites you to our Parent Academy graduation ceremony on November 22, 2015 at 2:30pm on the campus of Mount St. Joseph University. The graduation ceremony is for all parents who successfully completed the seven week Parent Academy program. Don't miss out on this wonderful opportunity to see our parents take another step towards ensuring a brighter future for their children. For more details, contact us at (513) 861-5323.
September 25, 2015
Leadership Scholars, a Cincinnati nonprofit, enlists and empowers parents to become a catalyst for their children to attend and graduate college. Founded on the belief that every child deserves a quality education to realize their full potential, the end-goal of Leadership Scholars is to increase college opportunities for all children, regardless of socioeconomic background.
How do they do it? They unlock what’s already inside parents’ hearts and minds. The growing “Parent Academy” has served over 800 parents, or significant adults in children’s lives. To read more visit: http://thecincinnatiherald.com/news/2015/sep/24/leadership-scholars-empowers-parents-transforms-st/
The White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanic released the “Bright Spots in Hispanic Education” national online catalog featuring over 230 programs, models, organizations and initiatives that are supporting and investing in the educational attainment of Hispanics, from cradle-to-career.
Leadership Scholars is excited to announce that it was recognized as one of the organizations in "Bright Spots in Education". It is the only organization in Cincinnati to receive this recognition.
The Initiative seeks to leverage these Bright Spots to encourage collaboration between stakeholders focused on similar issues in sharing data-driven approaches, promising practices, peer advice, and effective partnerships, ultimately resulting in increased support for the educational attainment of the Hispanic community. To learn more visit: http://1.usa.gov/MqX6lI or http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/list/hispanic-initiative/bright-spots.html.
Leadership Scholars Parent Academy Spring 2015 Graduation. Carmen Kelley.
Leadership Scholars Parent Academy Spring 2015 Graduation: Margarita deJesus Ramos
Good evening everyone and thank you for being here. My name is Margarita Ramos and my children go to Roberts Academy. I grew up in Oaxaca, Mexico. My parents did not go to formal school. My dad died when I was nine, so when I was 10 years old, in the 3rd grade I quit school to work, to help my mom with my seven siblings. My mom’s house did not have electricity, and we needed money so I cleaned houses. My mom sent me to another state in Mexico to clean, and I couldn’t even reach inside the sink, so I had to stand on a stool to clean the sink! I tell my children this so they are grateful for their opportunity to go to school.
At 25, I moved to the United States by myself so I could have a better life. I now work at a hotel in house keeping. I have four beautiful children, so when I heard about the parent program, I was excited to learn more.
I recommend the program to parents because I have changed many things because of the program. I now know how to better guide my children. I really liked to learn how to calculate GPA. I always saw my kids grades, but did not know what they meant. Now I know how to figure out their GPA with their grades. In my house, when my kids come home from school, we now practice meditation and it helps everyone. It relaxes their brains so they can study better. It also makes me feel better because I am relaxed and I can concentrate better.
I have learned how important it is to get my children involved in after school programs, and now we are looking for activities for them to do. I have learned the process to go to high school and to college. I now know the steps I need to follow to get my kids into college.
I thank God for the strength He gives me every day to keep moving on and for empowering the heart of this group of women to be able to help us. They have taught us all the ways we can help our kids graduate and become someone important. I think that is a dream for many parents since many of us did not have this opportunity-- not because we did not want to, but because our parents could not give us the chance to go to school, since it is very difficult in our countries. That is why many of us came here—for a better future for our families. We, as parents have to be with them always, supporting them and reminding them that with their everyday efforts they can make it happen and that it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, but how many times you get up and keep going.
Thanks to all these women helping us and God bless them always.
To my children: I love you, and you are the most important thing to me. It is for you that I work very hard every day. I want you, my children, to see me in this robe and I hope to one day see each of you in robes graduating from college.
Thank you very much.